Fare Well and Happy New Year

In these most difficult of times, let us look to the silver linings behind the clouds. The community spirit, the care, the love, the creativity, the will to do things differently and better.

Here’s a beautiful and moving example: a new poem written by Scots Makar Jackie Kay, showcased through twinkling drones dancing over Edinburgh skies. Jackie writes about the way that the air carries airs, music, the virus, chants and hymns.  Despite the trauma of the months gone by, we can and must still hope. Hope for the future, hope for a new year and hope for each other. You can watch parts one, two and three on YouTube, or via the EdinburghsHogmanay.com website.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year, and much peace, health and love in 2021. 💙

Book Review: Foiled Creative Fire by Heather Goodare

For some years now I have volunteered as a befriender with three charities (the Eric Liddell Centre and Vintage Vibes, both based in Edinburgh, and Independent Age UK), all of which do incredible work to help support older people who are lonely and/or housebound, and people who have caring responsibilities.  Through these initiatives, I have been privileged to meet many wonderful people, including Heather Goodare, who in her eighties has just published her latest book, Foiled Creative Fire: A study of remarkable women with breast cancer.

Heather has herself defied the cancer odds.  She had breast cancer 33 years ago and did not have a good prognosis, but gained complementary support from the Bristol Cancer Help Centre (now Penny Brohn UK).  Since then, she has devoted her life to making sure that the voices of other women with breast cancer in particular, and patients in general, can be heard at the highest levels.  She was the first patient representative on the British Medical Journal Editorial Board. She has written and peer-reviewed for medical and psychological books and journals, and has written many articles on the patient’s perspective in research, contributing significantly to the development of the Patient and Public Involvement initiative.

Turning to the book itself, I must first declare an interest: I had the great pleasure of proof-reading and commenting on most of the chapters while they were still in draft.  Heather presents twelve short yet meticulously researched biographies of famous and accomplished women who died of breast cancer. From Anne of Austria, Queen of France (1601-1666) to Audre Lorde (1934-1992), Heather explores the life of each woman through the wide lens of the times in which they lived.  Reading the completed book, I found it to be even more powerful than looking individually at the early drafts.  Each essay is fascinating in itself.  But taken as a whole, the set of case studies together present a powerful argument for the role of stress, anxiety and depression to be considered as a strong factor in the development of cancers and other conditions, particularly in women.  Heather’s work also illuminates the collective problem faced by women, historic and modern, in the fight against the pressures and expectations of a patriarchal society.

Overall, this is a slim volume which punches well above its weight.  It will of course be of interest to anyone who has experienced cancer directly or indirectly.  It also provides a unique contribution to our understanding of the history of feminism.  Above all, it is a fitting tribute to this collection of amazing women and their achievements.

My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 2

Following Vol 1 of this year’s festival diary, I can hardly believe that all the fun and frolics are so quickly over for another year. A few days on from the final day last Monday, life is returning to ‘normal’ (if there ever is such a thing!).  So as the sun sets on the summer, it’s nice to reflect back on some mid-end August highlights.

We had mixed weather this year – sometimes ridiculously hot; sometimes torrential rain. But overall it was extremely pleasant to be in and around the city….

…even at nighttime:


Continue reading “My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 2”

My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 1

Edinburgh styles itself ‘the festival city’. We have all kinds of festivals, about all kinds of subjects, all year round. But it is in the summer where the party really gets started.  Over the course of a few weeks, we have the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  It is an incredible period of vibrant creativity, excellence and fun.

My Mum and I kicked things off this year with art-immersion over a couple of days.  We saw the City Art Centre’s stunning exhibition of Victoria Crowe’s work.  I wrote about my love of this artist here and here. It was wonderful to see some familiar paintings again, and plenty of new-to-me ones too.  Here is a screen-shot montage of some of the photos I took as we went around.  I love this collage display of colour and texture, which is the epitome of Crowe’s style:


Continue reading “My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 1”